This time of night the minutes pass faster than the words can move from my brain and through my fingers on to the page. As I look towards Sunday and bringing my time at the Hanover church to a close, I’m struck that serendipitously my farewell falls on World Communion Sunday. (I learned from Jan that it is also the fifth anniversary of the beginning of our bombing of Afghanistan.) Of all the aspects of Christian worship, Communion is my favorite. I even wrote about it in an earlier post. One of the reasons I love the Meal is its unending layers of meaning. Like any good meal, there’s more going on that just eating; like any good worship experience, God finds ways to surprise.
At a youth camp one summer many summers ago, we were closing the week by sharing Communion together. That night, we set up the elements in the middle of the room and let people come in various groupings to the Table to serve one another. I went to the table with my friend Reed. Before we served each other he said, “You know what blows my mind? We’re doing something every Christian before us has done and every Christian after us will do.” A few years later, I was with my friend Ken (who pastors here) and he was talking about being moved by Jesus’ words, “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” (Matt. 26:29) My friend Billy and I took his words and wrote a song, which I’m going to sing at Hanover on Sunday.
pieces of life laid on the table
here is the blood poured out in love
fill this cup raise it up
here’s to the day, my friend
time draws a line down innocent faces
years mark the dreams that failed to come home
so you’ll say goodbye say goodnight
and here’s to the day remember
can you say it for the ones whose voices are silenced
can you say it for the ones who’ve never been free
can you pray for peace ache for peace
here’s to the day that’s coming
god speed the day
gather in close now cling to each other
sing to the night you don’t sing alone
fill this cup raise it up
here’s to the day remember
Jesus served his disciples the bread and the cup in the context of goodbye. Part of the deep meaning in the meal is love is stronger than forget (I know I’m borrowing that from someone; I just can’t figure out who). Part of the meaning is no one is around forever. We are all essential to God, but, in these days we call life, none of us is indispensable. When I was youth minister in Fort Worth, I tried to communicate my point by sticking my hand in a glass vase full of water.
“While my hand is in the water, you can see its place,” I said. Then I pulled my hand out of the vase; the water didn’t leave a hole where my hand had been. “The only evidence I have that my hand was there is that it’s wet.” The church in Hanover has gathered for around three hundred years and generation after generation, person after person, has left fingerprints all over the place and, one by one, they have been both remembered and forgotten. The point of standing in the Unbroken Line that brings us all to the Table is not to be remembered as much as to be in line. I’m proud of the fingerprints I’ve left at Hanover and the water will fill in behind me (I think that’s mixing metaphors) and the church, both in Hanover and around the world, will keep going. When November comes (we share Communion once a month), I will be in a different church, but still in the same unbroken line, leaving my fingerprints there.
Don’t let my theologizing fool you: I’m sad to leave. I’m leaving people I have grown to love. I’m leaving people I’ve grown accustomed to being with. I’m leaving things unfinished. I’ve spent my life saying goodbye and have yet to experience a time when it doesn’t suck to have to do it. I’m grateful we will get to say goodbye gathered at the Communion Table, where we can lean into the love that reminds us goodbye is not an ultimate word. One day, we will say hello.
Here’s to the day.